What you should know about vitamin A

The benefits of vitamin A are enormous. It is responsible for the vision and bone growth, it is an excellent natural antioxidant and gives our hair a shine and our skin softness and elasticity. That’s why you can often find it in shampoos and creams and even liquid vitamin A.

Types of vitamin A: Vitamin A-like and pro-carotenoids (mainly beta-carotene) are converted into retinol in the body. Carotenoids have been shown to have anti-cancer, anti-mutagenic, immunomodulatory, and antioxidant effects.

Retinol (vitamin A) and beta-carotene (pro-vitamin A) are essential organic compounds required by the body.

What foods contain vitamin A?
Vitamin A is found in carrots, pumpkin, broccoli, peaches, and melons. Higher levels are found in traditional herbs: paprika, sage, hawthorn, curry, oregano, basil, and halloumi cheese. In products of animal origin, retinol is found in fish oil, cod liver, milk, eggs, and butter. Carotenoids enter the body along with vegetables, spices, and fruits.

In foods, the amount of vitamin A can be significantly reduced by improper storage and cooking (prolonged heat treatment) of the product. Losses can be as high as 40%.

Why is vitamin A important?
Retinol activates the production of retinol, which provides good vision in the dark. beta-carotene has an antioxidant effect.

Retinol improves vision, helps maintain healthy skin and teeth, increases bone strength, and protects the lungs from toxic effects. beta-carotene – a powerful antioxidant that reliably protects the body from the harmful effects of free radicals, including smoke and UV radiation. This substance helps to prevent heart disease, asthma, depression, cancer, and secondary infertility.

Doctors recommend vitamin A for the treatment of many diseases: bronchitis, dysentery, psoriasis, eye diseases, rickets, mastitis, cirrhosis of the liver, leukaemia, etc.

Daily intake of vitamin A
The dose of retinol depends on the age and sex of the person. Thus, adult men need 650-950 mcg of vitamin A. Women need less – 600-800 mcg. Pregnant women have an increased daily requirement of 100 micrograms, while nursing mothers have an increased requirement of 410 micrograms of this vitamin.

For children, the intake ranges from 400 to 1000 mcg. If there is a shortage, the dose is increased to 3000 mcg.

Remember that foods rich in vitamin A lose up to 40% of their retinol during the cooking process. It can be supplemented with immune-boosting drinks.

Liquid vitamin A for the skin
Retinoic acid is compatible with receptors in the epidermis and dermis, so the potential of vitamin A in the cosmetic field is enormous: it

– Helping to even out skin tone and texture.
– Increasing the synthesis of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid in the dermis.
– Improving the protection of collagen fibres from UV damage.
– Reducing hyperpigmentation.
– Increasing skin density.
– Reducing the depth of visible wrinkles helps to significantly reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Vitamin A Deficiency
The main symptom of vitamin A deficiency is the development of ‘night blindness’. When your eyes take a long time to readjust to changes in light, it’s time to raise the alarm if it takes more than 30 seconds for your eyes to adjust when switching from a bright room to a dark one.

Tears and burning eyes in winter sunlight or bright light indicate a vitamin A deficiency. Also, dry the “goosebumps” on your elbows and thighs. It is also worth taking a course of vitamin A, hot drinks to boost the immune system, nose, and throat.

Vitamin A overdose
Prolonged use of retinol can build up in the liver and is hardly ever excreted naturally. It is then toxic to adults and children. Vomiting, dizziness, diarrhoea, yellowing, dry skin, and impaired vision may occur. beta-carotene is safer and will not be overdosed.

The dose of retinol for pregnant women should be monitored particularly carefully. In case of overdose, the development of the foetus can be impaired. The baby may be born with congenital cranial or skeletal disabilities.

Medical practitioners recommend laboratory monitoring of vitamin A concentrations in the body before and during administration.

What is the best way to absorb vitamin A?
Vitamin A is fat-soluble, so you should take vegetable oil or butter to improve absorption into the intestinal wall. In addition, the effect of retinol is increased when used in combination with vitamin C.

How should I take vitamin A?
A doctor’s prescription recommends taking vitamin A medication or an immune-boosting drink for adults. This substance builds up quickly in the body, so because of the risk of overdose, doctors always calculate the amount separately.

Vitamin A is divided into two groups: retinyl palmitate and retinyl acetate. The first substance acts gently, the second is more active. They are available in capsule and oily solution form. Regardless of their structure, they are well absorbed.

Can I take vitamin A together with other vitamins or medicines?
Vitamin A and vitamin E work well together, but the latter should be taken in smaller amounts; otherwise, the absorption strength of the former will be impaired. You can combine vitamin A with iron, copper, and vitamin B.

Vitamins A and D should not be taken together; they will cancel each other out. If you are taking estrogenic oral contraceptives (OC), it may be prudent to take retinol. Estrogen increases the concentration of vitamin A in the plasma, increasing the risk of hypervitaminosis.

Isotretinoin increases the risk of toxic effects. High doses (over 50,000 IU per day) of the combination of retinol and tetracycline are dangerous; intracranial pressure may be increased.

The absorption of nitrates and statins is reduced when retinoids are taken.

How much vitamin A do I need?

The amount of vitamin A you need depends on your age and sex. Average daily recommended amounts are listed below in micrograms (mcg) of retinol activity equivalents (RAE).

Life Stage Recommended Amount
Birth to 6 months 400 mcg RAE
Infants 7–12 months 500 mcg RAE
Children 1–3 years 300 mcg RAE
Children 4–8 years 400 mcg RAE
Children 9–13 years 600 mcg RAE
Teen boys 14–18 years 900 mcg RAE
Teen girls 14–18 years 700 mcg RAE
Adult men 900 mcg RAE
Adult women 700 mcg RAE
Pregnant teens 750 mcg RAE
Pregnant women 770 mcg RAE
Breastfeeding teens 1,200 mcg RAE
Breastfeeding women 1,300 mcg RAE

Additional information
Vitamin A is responsible for the growth and development of the body, which is why it is so helpful for children. It also affects the normal state of the mucous membranes of the skin. Due to a lack of vitamin A, various viruses attach faster – the same with flu, SARS. Because any bacteria first enter the mucous membranes, if they are not usually protected, the virus enters further into the body.

In addition, this vitamin regulates dusk and colour vision. It is also known as the “beauty and youth vitamin”, as it is responsible for skin renewal.

It is best to obtain vitamin A from natural sources (plant and animal foods), as synthetic forms of vitamin A are not as effective. Even though there was once a popular belief that beta-carotene could prevent lung cancer, it has been shown that, on the contrary, in smokers, it causes cancer when consumed in high doses. In addition, pregnant women should not take large amounts of vitamin A. There is a risk of foetal malformation if too much is taken (if synthetic drugs are taken).